IM this article to a friend!

April 30, 2004

Closed captioning planned for news, emergency broadcasts

From: WFSB - Connecticut,CT,USA - Apr 30, 2004

HARTFORD (AP) - It wasn't until the 11 o'clock news last month that James Pedersen understood exactly what had happened during the Interstate 95 tanker truck accident that shut down a section of the highway for a week.

The fiery crash, which occurred just before 8 p.m., was being broadcast live on television. But Pedersen, who is deaf, couldn't find any closed-captioning until nearly two hours later.

"All we saw were pictures of the bridge and the fire," Pedersen said. "We didn't know what was happening."

Connecticut television stations are expected to transmit all emergency information broadcasts in closed-captioning format by April 2005, the Connecticut Broadcasters Association announced Thursday.

The Federal Communications Commission had made it mandatory for the stations to provide closed-captioning for all programs starting January 2006. A bill was recently passed a legislative committee that would comply with the FCC's January deadline.

But in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, it was imperative to work toward having emergency broadcasts in the closed-captioning format as soon as possible, said Harvey J. Corson, executive director of the American School for the Deaf.

"We are very happy to work with the deaf community and to ensure that everyone in the state has access to all the information, all of the important news, weather, emergency information," said Elden Hale, vice president and general manager of WFSB-TV in Hartford. "In working out this agreement, we have, I think, set the stage for everyone in the state to see and hear all the information they need to."

Hale said advances in closed-captioning software will make the April deadline easier to meet.

ULTECH LLC, located in Middlebury, has developed a program called "Caption MIC" that can translate live broadcasts into text almost immediately, said Mark Hall, a sales manager for the company.

As the broadcaster speaks, a second person repeats the broadcast using a microphone that is connected to the special software. The software translates the speech into words and the closed-captioning appears immediately as each word is translated. There is a three- or four-second delay for translation time.

Hall said the program costs about $12,000.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)